Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

May 1998

A puzzle

Heres a puzzle/riddle that has had me buffaloed since fourth grade.

Take a sheet of paper or clear off a section of a chalk board.

Draw three squares and three circles.

DoodleDraw lines from each square to each circle, or the other way round if you fancy yourself a rugged individual.

Only two rules: first, none of the lines may cross; second, no fair hooking up in series. There has to be a solid line from each square to each circle.

Doodle Play with it a while.

You will be able to get from every square to every circle .. except the last one.

Start over, do clockwise and, then, counterclockwise swirls.

Rearrange the circles and squares. Intersperse them, put them in a line, put one in the middle and the others somewhere else (I haven't tried that one yet but I just know it wont work.)

Doodle Give up?


Its probably only a matter of time . I've been working on this little beauty for almost 50 years. Clearly, I can expect a breakthrough any moment.

While you are at the problem, gaining quickly on my accumulated knowledge, reflect a bit on why this puzzle is so intriguing.

Doodle Heres my analysis.

The overall objective is simple, connect dots (circles and squares) with lines. The task only contains nine steps and each step is basically the same, and simple to boot. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that all the steps can be completed no matter how many times one is stymied in the process. The reason for failing, even after 30 or 40 thousand attempts, is never articulated because each failure is such a surprise. Instead of reflection, the normal response is to begin again to avoid acknowledgment of the frustration of the prior effort.

Doodle So, what does this have to do with anything? What's the point? What's the extra point?

Isn't this just like the public policy problem of providing adequate health care for everyone? You know, There's Medicare for the elderly, Medicaid for the poor, Dr. Dynosaur for the young, group insurance for the employed, free emergency service for the young immortals, professional courtesies for the docs, managed care to hold down the costs, and fee-for-service for the financially independent. If we just add medical savings accounts, a few tax breaks for generic drug manufacturers, set up ethician panels to ration gene therapy, and a means-tested surcharge, well be done.

Right? Or, with each new idea (or line) don't we need to replete an old one?